“Cell Therapy for disabilities with a neurological cause” can improve the quality of life of patients with traumatic spinal cord injuries
Traumatic spinal cord injury represents one of the gravest medical and social problems, as there are no effective therapies capable of restoring the neurological sequelae that arise as a result. In Spain it is estimated that the incidence of traumatic paraplegia, prevalent in around 50,000 patients, is growing by numbers that oscillate between 800 and 1,000 new cases every year.
For this reason, Fundación MAPFRE has made a firm commitment to the research project “Cell Therapy for disabilities with a neurological cause” being carried out by the team of neurosurgeon Dr. Jesús Vaquero of the Clinical University Hospital Puerta de Hierro. Since the beginning we have assisted, along with the Rafael del Pino Foundation, with nearly one and a half million euros worth of financing for the studies required for its development.
The first results from this clinical trial undertaken with twelve patients were presented on Wednesday 21 September in the Conference Hall of the Hospital Puerta de Hierro in Majadahonda (Madrid). Taking part in the event was the president of the Autonomous Community of Madrid, Cristina Cifuentes, accompanied by the Minister of Health, Jesús Sánchez Martos, the president of Fundación MAPFRE and MAPFRE, Antonio Huertas Mejías, the president of the Rafael del Pino Foundation, Maria del Pino and Marisa Pina, a patient treated as part of the project.
The procedure carried out by the multidisciplinary team of the Hospital Puerta de Hierro involved implanting mesenchymal stem cells –that can produce different types of tissue- from the patients themselves in the exact location of their spinal cord injury. This technique is personalized for every case, as it is performed according to the characteristics of the neuroimage for each injury.
The results obtained following this first trial that began in July 2013 and were published in the scientific journal Cytotherapy, are encouraging. Improvements were noted in sensitivity and spasticity -muscular rigidity- in all cases, in sphincter control in over 80% of patients, in sexual function and in neuropathic pain -the abnormal perception of pain; in this case due to a disorder of the central nervous system- and recovery of motor function in more than 50% of the patients.
We are convinced that these new cell therapy techniques will open up new avenues of hope for these patients! While we are aware it cannot be said that there is a cure for spinal cord injuries, what can be offered is a significant improvement in sufferers quality of life. As Antonio Huertas Mejías said in his presentation “Today a window of hope is opening for thousands of people in the world with spinal cord injuries”. We will continue working towards this.